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Chrissy Amphlett

Posted by purplemary54 on April 22, 2013

The lead singer of Australian group the Divinyls passed away on Sunday after long battles with both breast cancer and MS.  She was only 53.  Entertainers of all sorts die young; it’s one of the biggest hazards of being in show business.  Long hours, extensive travel, poor eating and sleeping habits, and the ever-present specter of substance abuse all contribute to the early endings of so many musicians/singers, actors, and other artists.  It used to be overdoses and plane crashes; now it’s disease that takes so many.

The Divinyls were a one-hit wonder in the States.  “I Touch Myself” was a silly, sexy song that I’m not sure was taken all that seriously.  It seems to be trying for shocking, but mostly comes off as goofy.  What I think made it a successful song is how truly sweet it really was.  This wasn’t a song about hooking up or being promiscuous.  This was a love song: “I don’t want anybody else.  When I think about you, I touch myself.”  Masturbation as romance.  The nature of the romance is left deliberately unclear; there’s no way to tell if it’s a real relationship, or if the girl in the song just has a huge crush on some celebrity.  That’s not the point, anyway.  She has genuine feelings for the guy (?) she’s singing to, and she wants him to know about it.  He turns her on, and she’s determined to enjoy the feeling.  The first line is rather telling, “I love myself, I want you to love me.”  This woman is secure in herself and her sexuality.  It might be a somewhat silly song, but it’s also a little revolutionary.  There just aren’t that many songs that feature women singing about their bodies in an honest, realistic way.  She’s not trashy or trampy (or any other slur used against women who express themselves sexually).  She’s certainly not ashamed of her desires.  And in a patriarchal world, that’s a pretty big deal.

Amphlett vamps it up admirably in the video, obviously having fun with the image.  And once again, it comes of as fun and sweet.  I don’t know much about what Chrissy Amphlett was like in reality, or even in other performances.  But she takes something that could be demeaning and makes it empowering.  Not bad for a one-hit wonder.

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